Today we rode 116 miles and climbed 5000 feet. At “rap” last night–the name for the nightly preview of the next day’s ride–we were told it would be “an epic day.” “On paper” the toughest day of the ride in terms of miles and cumulative feet climbed. So, we were all a bit on edge…
Breakfast was at 5am and I was on the pedals at 6am, the earliest we were allowed to leave, in a mild rain. The route was “exit Best Western (Prineville), take a left. Pedal 116 miles and turn left into Best Western (John Day)”. OK, there was some SAG stops and some notations about stuff along the way, but no turns, the same road all day. Sounds boring? Not really. This is one of Oregon’s most scenic highways, and it’s not that heavily trafficked. There were some gorgeous cliffs and canyons that we passed through. The two long hills with 2000 or so feet of vertical climbing were followed by 20 or so miles of descent. What was truly great about the descents is that they were not that steep and there was also some tailwind, and I hit my fastest time ever on a bike (I think). The scenery was still mountain desert with at times a changeover back and forth to tall pines and typical northwest. The weather was mostly dry with some clouds and not too hot. Amazing.
What is also interesting to note on this ride is a phenomenon that seems to occur as a downhill levels out and begins a very gradual ascent (maybe 1% for those understanding the grade). Your eye somehow still sees this as downhill, but your speedometer drops like a stone. It’s weird. It was truly weird today because we traversed the John Day river several times and at one point I thought I was going downhill and the river beside me had small rapids flowing in the other direction. Yes, I was going uphill as described, so therefore it was me, not the river, that didn’t know up from down.
All in all, the disclaimer that this was the toughest day “on paper” was just that. It was long, but the long downhills and the tailwind seemed to make pedaling easier. I finished saddle sore but not completely exhausted, even though it started raining 5 miles from the end. It was epic in the sense that I loved it. I don’t think it will be the most “epic” day of the journey. Somehow I think that is ahead.